Newest Review: ... want to go on one rather than walk around yourself and listen. The Roman Baths are wheelchair accessible, but I did not use the facilities... more
Roman Baths at Bath
Roman Baths Museum (Bath)
Member Name: zombieflesh
Roman Baths Museum (Bath)
Date: 08/07/10, updated on 08/07/10 (91 review reads)
Advantages: educational, historical interest, well laid out information, helpful guide
Disadvantages: none, just make sure you have a few hours to enjoy it fully
The Roman Baths at Bath, Somerset is one of our most famous local attractions and I finally paid a visit to them yesterday with my partner. They are located in the centre of the city, just next to the Abbey, and it only takes a few minutes walk from the train or bus station to get there. It is incredibly easy to reach via public transport and it is very simple to locate once you get into the central area.
The Baths are open from 9.00am-9.00pm during the months of July and August, and the ticket prices are £12.25 for adults, £10.00 for seniors and students, £7.50 for children (ages 6-16). Children under 5 are allowed free entry, and you can buy a family ticket (2 adults and up to 4 children) for £33.00. I purchased a combined saver ticket which was £15 for adult entry to both the Roman Baths and the Fashion Museum. This is a good saving, but to be honest I would advise not to waste your time on the Fashion Museum, save a few quid and just purchase a ticket for the Baths and spend a good time taking in everything they have to offer there. The combined saver ticket is valid for one entry to each location over the period of 7 days, so if you're in the area and want to see the Baths one day and the Museum later in the week then this gives you a bit of flexibility.
A bit of background info: At the very heart of the site is the Sacred Spring. Hot water at a temperature of 46°C rises here at the rate of 1,170,000 litres (240,000 gallons) every day and has been doing this for thousands of years.
In the past this natural phenomenon was beyond human understanding and it was believed to be the work of the ancient gods. In Roman times a great Temple was built next to the Spring dedicated to the goddess Sulis Minerva, a deity with healing powers.
The mineral rich water from the Sacred Spring supplied a magnificent bath-house which attracted visitors from across the Roman Empire.
The building itself is on a huge scale and impressive to look at. It is somewhat dwarfed by the size of the overlooking Abbey, but it still has a grand entrance and upon making my way into the entrance hall I was taken in by the beautiful tile flooring and large marble pillars. If you purchase your ticket in advance you get to skip the queue which was wonderful, we walked right in and headed over to the information desk where we were given little electronic handsets that look like large mobile phones or walkie-talkies. This little gadget was called an acoustiguide and it was the first time I'd used such a thing, so this added an interesting element to the tour.
You start the tour by heading out onto a raised walkway above the main bathing area which is open-air. You can look over beyond the walls and see down over the city which is a few metres below. The level of the modern day streets is actually built over previous structures and is a lot higher than the original level at the time when the Baths were built. You get a really good view of the bathing area from here and you can see the many statues of emperors and guards that decorate the balustrades.
From here you follow the paths around and head back inside where you are taken downwards into other areas of the Bath grounds. This is where the Temple area is, and there are lots of displays with models and artefacts that depict how life would have been in the Roman times. What we are actually able to see is very different to what was originally created, and although there has been extensive excavation work there is a lot that has been lost or is still yet uncovered. The Temple holds the cult statue of the Goddess Sulis Minerva, and her gilt bronze head is on display. There is also a large courtyard area which includes a sacrificial area where offerings would have been made to please the Goddess. There were also many rituals involving curses and wishes for the Goddess to solve problems and retrieve lost items.
At the end of the courtyard is the spring overflow, which is a Roman drainage system and carries the water around the site. Just around the corner you can go back up slightly and see the King's Bath and watch the steaming hot water bubbling away. It is an incredible sight and I liked this area a lot, it looks very grand and imposing, yet secluded.
As you turn through more corridors you finally end out at the floor-level of the main Bath area, as previously seen from above. The beauty and scale of this area are unlike modern structures and you really get a feel for the way this area would have been used. The architecture is fascinating and you get to have a good close look here. You can also head into the East Bath area which is a series of connected chambers showings the working of the heating system, steam room, changing areas, and a freezing plunge pool! This are is dimly lit and very atmospheric, especially with it being underneath the modern buildings.
The tour finishes when you have completed this circuit and I truly thought it was a fascinating building with a rich, interesting history and displayed in an appealing way. Everything is preserved and shown in its natural state, and modern technology has been implemented to help bring this era to life.
In some areas projection units are used to show actors depicting how people would have behaved and what the spaces were used for, overlaying the walls of the bath areas. There is also an impressive display of the carved stone which would have been at the entrance of the Bath house, and there are many pieces of this missing. Projected images flash over the pieces to show what the completed image would have looked like, and gives a full impression of the way it would have looked originally.
The thing that really helped me to get the most out of the visit was without a doubt the acoustiguide. You carry it around with you, and as there are numbers placed in various locations on the walls as you journey round the site, you can type these numbers in on your keypad, press play, and listen to a detailed commentary about the piece in question. This was brilliant, informative, and kept my attention. They have also brought in famous travel writer Bill Bryson to provide an extra commentary, which gives his opinions and thoughts on the site and can be listened to alongside the main commentary.
All in all it was a wonderful day out which I felt was really worth my while. I had a fascinating time and the place has a real presence that is awe-inspiring. The audio guide helped me to learn more and brought the tour to life. We spent at least 2 hours thoroughly going around and looking and listening to everything that was on offer. I would recommend this to anyone who is visiting the area and can't believe that I have overlooked it so many times on my previous visits to Bath. A wonderful influential piece of history that is maintained exquisitely and is a perfect spot of culture for tourists wanting to know the history of the area.
A few final points - the gift shop is naff and over-priced! (aren't they all though). The guide book can be purchased for £4.50 and is a nice souvenir.
I think it could be awkward if you are visiting with anyone who has difficulty walking, or with young children/pushchairs as a lot of the ground is the original stone and it is quite uneven and worn, making it slippy and difficult to walk in places. There is also a lot of going up and down through the levels, and there are only a few resting areas with literally a couple of seats where you can stop and take a break.
It was very crowded as we were inside, and I expect this is the case throughout the summer months, if not all year round. Take your time, pace yourself and make sure you get a good look at everything whilst ignoring the rude people that want to push past you and get in the way!
I did not see any rules regarding photography, but out of respect I made sure to turn the flash off when I was using my camera.
Summary: A must see for anyone planning to visit Bath
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